Kenyans living with diabetes have been urged to regularly do eye examinations for early detections of any complications that may result from the disease such as diabetic retinopathy which damages blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye.
Speaking during the launch of Ophtha Connect at St Mary’s Mission Hospital Langata, Dr Mwiti Makathimo, the Head of Partnerships at Novartis East Africa said: “Diabetic patients tend to be at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and with regular eye examination, they can reduce the risk of vision loss and blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy.” He further noted that, “the elimination of preventable sight loss is within our grasp, and we must work even harder than ever to achieve this goal.”
Ophtha Connect is a nationwide screening program being run by Novartis in partnership with diabetes clinics. Through the program, Novartis will provide a fundus camera and an optometrist to carry out the screening under the supervision of clinical staff in the clinic. The fundus camera is a specialized low power microscope with an attached camera designed to photograph the interior surface of the eye and has the ability to record colour images of the condition of the interior surface of the eye, in order to document the presence of disorders and monitor their change over time, making it a very useful device in identifying and diagnosing diabetic retinopathy.
On her part, Sister Elizabeth Oyuka, CEO St. Mary’s Mission Hospital, Lang’ata, appreciated the partnership noting that the hospital’s purpose is to offer affordable and accessible quality health care to the public with great focus on uplifting the dignity of the sick. “We remain committed to help strengthen eye care in the region to improve people’s lives,” she added.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) estimates that 1.1 billion people worldwide suffer from the effects of sight loss due to a lack of access to eye care services. These are some of the poorest and most marginalised in society. By 2050, if nothing changes, this number will increase to 1.8 billion.
The Ministry of Health estimates that 15.5 percent of Kenyans need quality eye care services, ranging from surgeries, treatments, and spectacle corrections, but only about a fifth have access to eye health services.
In July this year, Novartis announced a partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation on the ‘Integrated Eye Health Program’ for blindness prevention in Kenya. The program, which is part of an ongoing partnership to tackle avoidable blindness, aims to improve the accessibility of eye health services by conducting a comprehensive eye health program and will educate over 400,000 people on eye diseases and screen at least 40,000 patients, while prioritizing the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.